Over the past three Sundays, we have focused first on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles commissioning their ministry, then came the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and then Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These three Sundays represent the foundation of our faith; the Holy Spirit empowering the Apostles and all Disciples of Christ to go forth on their missionary journey to bring the light of Christ to all the world; belief in our Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the sacrificial gift of our salvation, Christ’s Body and Blood.
These are very powerful messages and reminders of the call to all the baptized, which bring us to today. As you can see I am wearing green vestments today symbolizing Ordinary Time. It helps remind us that we are ordinary people living ordinary lives with an extraordinary call to mission from Christ. We are to bring the light of Christ into our ordinary lives just like he did. We help others experience the love of Christ who lives within us by being the hands and feet of Christ in our encounters with others. What we are describing is the life of a Disciple of Christ.
Today’s readings focus on discipleship. God calls all of us. Some of us may say, “I never heard him call me. I don’t know what I am called to do.” Most likely we are not going to receive a call from God on our cell phone with detailed directions on what we are to do. That doesn’t mean he is not reaching out to us. This is one of the reasons we listen to and meditate on the Word of God in the scriptures at Mass, receive the Eucharist, and recognize the selfless loving acts of service of others in our community. God is always calling each and every one of us in many ways but we must listen for his call. The question is, are you ready and truly willing to listen? When God calls you, will you answer? If you answer, how will you answer Him? What criteria will “you” place on the Lord in order for you to heed His call?
In the Gospel today Jesus called out “Follow me.” One replied, “Let me go first and bury my father.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” They set qualifying criteria regarding following Jesus. How many of us would say: I will follow you Lord “If …” That “If” usually means if the cost is not too high for us. The cost of leaving family behind, that cost of leaving earthly wealth and comfort behind, or the cost of leaving the old you behind, whatever tethers us to something other than God. Jesus said to those he called, to not look back at what you left behind, serving God is your highest priority.
In the First Reading Elijah invites Elisha to follow him. He doesn’t try to force it upon him. It is Elisha’s free will choice. Jesus also invites us to follow him. He also makes it very clear that nothing should get in the way of true discipleship. You are either with him or not. It does not mean that he only asks you once and if you say no, all is lost. His invitation is perpetual, but to accept the invitation it must be your free will choice to put the will of God before everything else.
Remember, there are many callings in life such as, service, marriage and family that are very important to God, so don’t take it wrong thinking that Jesus is saying in the Gospel today to abandon your family or all things important to you. The point is that nothing should be more important to you which would come between you and God and your service to others which honors God. If something would separate you from God, than a choice must be made. Choose God.
Sin separates us from God, so you must make that choice each and every day to choose God over the temptation of sin. God is always calling us to be Christ like. He also calls us to serve others as Christ did. Answering God’s call will be a life changing experience. There is almost always a leaving of the old you behind and the birth of a new you. This is most likely one of the biggest challenges people face, leaving their comfort zone to respond to God’s call.
Jesus is calling us into question and that’s never easy, fun, or comfortable. He is calling into question the direction of our life, the values we claim to hold, and how we are living and embodying those values. The question is, what can we do to move our life in the direction of Christ? We must be careful not to be indifferent to Christ’s call. Our salvation hinges on making Jesus the center of our lives. We must arrange our lives around him.
How do we do that? Jesus is standing there waiting for each and every one of us with open arms. We must make the next move. We must approach him with open arms as well. We must do this each and every day, in our ordinary daily lives. When you approach others with the loving embrace of Christ, you approach Jesus.
Pope Francis encourages the faithful to “ask Christ for the gift of mercy,” to allow Christ’s mercy “to embrace us and penetrate us,” to have “the courage to return to Jesus, to encounter His love and mercy in the Sacraments,” and to “feel His closeness and tenderness,” so that we “might be more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness, and love.”
This is the way of Christ, the way of life in which he calls us, the way of service that he demonstrated to us and invites us to embrace in our daily lives, the way to bring the light of Christ to others, the way to discipleship.